Piano Technique: Micro-Lessons

The task of improving one’s technique is best described as a process of discovery,
not body-building.. -- fjpeter

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Playing with good technique is largely the process
of learning to get out of your own way. -- fjpeter

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Exercises make my muscles tired... Studying makes my brain tired.
I don’t need to do exercises... I need to study. -- fjpeter

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Playing piano is like dancing... with a partner.

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Never, ever do strength training on your fingers…
with a squeeze ball or hand gripper or any other crazy contraption.
This poisonous practice, coming out of the finger strength school of piano,
will actually cause rigidity and tension.

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Playing scales and arpeggios the wrong way (mindlessly and full of tension)
instills bad habits that actually prevent the development of a good technique.

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Myth: Big musical ideas are played using bigger parts of your body,
while smaller ideas are played using smaller parts.
Truth: All parts, big and small, contribute to all musical ideas, big and small.

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I never play the piano with my fingers alone...
I play with my fingers, my hands, my arms, my torso, my entire body.

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Technique is dynamic, not static:
It requires intention, preparation, anticipation, momentum, continuity, ebb & flow.

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To play louder, the keys go down faster.
To play softer, the keys go down slower.

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I am a visual creature.
Close my eyes and visualize what I am playing.
It’s amazing what I can see with my “third eye”.

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If I play only with my fingers, I tend to go faster when I play louder.
If I play with my entire body an an integrated whole, this tendency disappears.

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In order to fix a technical problem, play it wrong to an extreme to see what it feels like.
Then experiment with ways that gently eliminate that feeling.

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When you play using unrestrained, natural body movements that fit the flow of the music…
It looks musical, feels musical, and sounds musical. These three things are inseparable!
You want to inject this magical feeling of freedom into everything you play. Everything!

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If I feel my fingers or hands stretching or scrunching to reach a note,
it is an invitation to find an easier way...
by seeking the assistance of my hands, arms, and entire body.

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You cannot try to relax, but you can eliminate tension.

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The Formula for Success = Awareness + Mindful Experimentation

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I can uncover a technical problem by playing faster...
then noticing where tension arises.

I can uncover a technical problem by playing slower...
then noticing where tension arises.

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Technique and “Memorization”:
Great technique is always about using all, not just some, of your body.
Using more of your body employs more of your sensori-motor brain, so…
Playing with good technique helps you to know the piece with more of your brain!

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Don’t be afraid to use the whole length of a key.

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I am always preparing, anticipating...
carrying momentum from one musical place to another!

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If my playing feels tense, one way to find the source of my tension
is to simply observe what part of me is doing most of the work.
Then it is a process of discovering how to do less work, not more.

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Smoothly accelerate your playing mechanism into each and every note.
Replace abrupt, sharp, sudden, jerky, and hurried attacks
with smooth ebbs and flows of momentum.

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Good piano technique does not require finger strength and independence...
Good technique requires finger, hand, arm, body coordination.

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Wasted effort: There is no reason
to keep pushing the keys down after they've made a sound.

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Allow your hands, wrists, elbows, arms, shoulders & body to help...
making it easy for your fingers to play.

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Don’t let your fingers get “stuck” or "welded" to the keys.
Let them playfully step, roll, walk, skip, rotate, slide, saunter, glide, caress...
from one musical place to the next.

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Technique is not about building strength, speed, & endurance of my muscles.
It’s about developing a clear and accurate mental picture of what I want my body to do.

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Never stop playing... even in between the notes!
Always be preparing and anticipating,
carrying momentum from one musical place to another!

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Your technique will only be as good as your ability to listen to your own body…
If you know how to listen, your body will tell you what you need to do.

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